Posted: May 23, 2016
Category: The Musician Business
**Guest Post by Max Garcia Conover, modern folk singer-songwriter out of Portland, ME.
"good afternoon from somewhere in illinois,
i just did the taxes for my first year as a full-time independent songwriter and i wanted to share some details about the business side of the work i’m doing. for years i’ve sought out information about how small-time musicians are making a living and i’ve found a lot of clickbait articles full of advice but very little in the way of actual numbers. i think one explanation for that is our culture’s tendency to equate money with productivity, which probably makes even the most enlightened folks feel a little self conscious about exactly how much they make — i certainly do. so here’s me recognizing the silliness of that feeling and taking some pride in humble, honest, hard-won earnings:
in 2015 i played 172 shows, traveled 35,000 miles, and made about $19,000. my income came mainly from performance fees (usually $50-150) and from selling albums at shows, and i also got some money from my weekly songs project ($2700) and playing instrumental guitar at fancy restaurants ($3000). when i was home in maine, i spent 3-4 days/week on the weekly songs project, 1-2 traveling regionally to play shows, and 1-2 on booking and minimal publicity. i spent 140 days on tours that ranged from 2 shows in a row to a national 57-show tour. 50 kindred spirits joined my weekly songs project and just over 1000 new people signed up to get emails.
the money i made last year covered my living and business expenses with a little bit left over. i was surprised by how much ground i covered and i’m cutting that number down in 2016 by being more selective about what shows i play and spending fewer days on the road. i’m also continuing to spend the majority of my time on the weekly songs project even though it doesn’t make much business sense and probably never will — that project is what makes this job feel vital and real to me and i’m always thinking about it.
i think that covers most of it. please get in touch if you have any questions and feel free to share this with anyone who might find it useful.
(also, my initial subject line for this [blog] was “what i made in 2015,” but i changed it because none of this is what i made — what i made is 30 songs & videos that i’m proud of, as well as countless small moments of song-sown connection with people all over the country.)
p.s. here's a song poem about a touring musician"
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